March 20, 2017
There are simply more people facing retirement without a spouse — either by choice or because they are divorced or widowed. In 2015, for the first time in the nation’s history, the number of unmarried American adults outnumbered those who were married. One in seven Americans lives alone — over 30 million of us, compared to 4 million in 1950. Right now, 40% of women between 45 and 64, and 35% of men in that age bracket, have never married or are single for another reason. Being single comes with its own set of circumstances when preparing for retirement, and I want to go over some of those today, Tom.
If you are single, the first thing you need to do is focus on your emergency fund and your safety net. Because you do not have a partner to fall back on financially, you need to make sure you are prepared to take a financial hit — whatever it may be — without having to turn to the money you have saved for retirement. So, you want to work hard to build a 3 month emergency fund that can cover all of your expenses, including rent or mortgage, utilities, groceries, auto payments, cell phone bills, etc. And once you get to 3 months, try to build for 6 months. Remember, you want this to be liquid, so keep it in a savings account.
Second, you should review your insurance coverage. If you are single, and especially if you will be retiring single, you want to make sure you have disability coverage, both short- and long-term. One in four Americans will suffer a disability while they are in the workforce, and disability insurance will replace a portion of your income in the even that you get sick or are injured in an accident. Many employers offer disability insurance as an optional benefit, though you often have to pay a portion of the premium. It is worth it. If you don’t get it through your employer, you need to find coverage yourself. It can be pricy, sometimes between $100 to $200 per month, but it will protect your income and therefore your retirement. It is also important to consider long-term care insurance. Nearly 7 in 10 retirees will require some form or long-term care at some point, and single retirees are more likely to need it earlier in retirement. If you have coverage, you will not have to pay for it with your retirement savings, which is always a good thing.
In addition to putting your safety net in place, Tom, estate planning is a must for those who are likely to be single in retirement. For example, you want to designate individuals to make medical and financial decisions for you if you are unable to do so. In the case of the person making medical decisions, you want to make sure they are specified as having medical power of attorney for you, they have copies of your living will and other advance directives, and they should live nearby. You also need to give someone power of attorney over your financial decisions, and provide them with key information such as account numbers and passwords.
The last tip that I have for those who are expecting to retire single is to emphasize the importance of saving for retirement to begin with. I may sound like a broken record, Tom, but it is really important for single individuals, and single women in particular. Why? Because singles are worse at saving than those with spouses. According to a report by the Economic Policy Institute, 43% of single men and 42% of single women have retirement account savings, compared with 65% of married couples. This is even true for people age 56 – 61, who are closing in on retirement. And those singles who are saving for retirement are not building large nest eggs. According to the report, among single men with savings, the accounts hold an average balance of $34,000. Single women with savings have an average of $30,000 saved. In order to retire, you have to start saving, and that is especially true for those expecting to spend their golden years without a spouse.
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